“Whether it’s a minor character or a character that is one of the most highly skilled and most played, if that character is removed from the game, the people who live for that character in Smash Bros. are going to have their feelings hurt.” – Masihiro Sakurai
Character cuts are always a very touchy subject in Super Smash Bros. The franchise is very character driven, after all, and roster discussion always tends to dominate most Smash forums. Fans actually lament cut characters to the point that cut veterans are leading many current DLC polls. It does bring to question future cuts in the series. Who, from the Smash for 3DS/Wii U roster, will not make it back in Smash 5 and beyond? To answer this question, we will look into which characters were cut in previous smash games as well as why they didn’t return.
Characters Cut from Brawl
Super Smash Bros. Melee’s roster was very much an upgrade from Smash Bros. 64, and everyone of the characters found in the original game made their way back in the Gamecube sequel. Brawl, however, was a different story. Brawl saw five total characters cut from Melee. They were as follows:
With the exception of Mewtwo, all of these characters are clone characters, a distinction that should be taken note of. All of the characters with the exception of Roy also happen to come from established series with more than three reps. Besides that, they share very little in common. The main take away from this grouping is that clones are more likely than fully unique characters to be cut and franchises with multiple reps are more likely than small franchises to see losses.
Characters ALMOST cut from Brawl
Jigglypuff, a member of the N64 original 12, was almost cut multiple times. This would have made her one of the only unique characters (although she does share some animations with Kirby) to be removed between games, and the only character cut from Smash 64 to Melee.
Ness, the protagonist of Earthbound, was going to be outright replaced with Lucas for Melee. The delay and cancellation of Earthbound 64 saved Ness’ spot in that instance. While it is never explicitly stated by Sakurai, it seems likely that Lucas would have been far more similar to Ness’ if the former had not returned.
These two facts are important as they shatter the “rule” that the “original 12” (the characters that originated in Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64) can never be cut. It is also important since these are non-clone characters.
Characters Cut from Smash Wii U/ 3DS
The latest iteration of Smash has seen a few cuts of its own. It has also seen a few resurrection, including that of Lucas, as DLC. We shall take Sakurai’s word that DLC was not planned (although I do have my own thoughts on the matter, read them here) and count Lucas as a full cut even though he eventually returned. The cut characters for Smash for 3DS/Wii U are:
This is a far more varied list of removed characters than what we saw in the transition from Melee to Brawl. Of these characters, only two (Wolf and Lucas) could be considered to be clones of any type, and considering how much their move sets diverge from their source characters, even calling them semiclones is a bit of a disservice. Why then, where these characters cut? Let us look at them in more detail.
“Characters from a series that has no future are rarely chosen.” – Masihiro Sakurai
This quote from Sakurai may shed some light on these cuts. Star Fox as a series had been on a decline for some time by the time Smash 4 development began. The last original game in the series was the lack luster Star Fox Command in 2006, and Miyamoto himself stated that the 2011 3DS remake of Star Fox 64 would be used to gauge interest in the series. Star Fox was a franchise with 3 playable representatives in Brawl, one more than Donkey Kong and the same amount as Kirby, both of which are larger franchises. It should not come as a huge shock, then, that a character like Wolf would be a lower priority during the planning stages of Smash 4. Lucas came from a franchise in much worse shape than Star Fox, and is also from a game that never released in the West.
“The reality of the situation unfortunately is that there are certain limitations on the 3DS, so we’re forced into a situation where we may need to reduce some characters to a certain degree.” – Masihiro Sakurai
This quote actually accounts for three separate cuts. Ice Climbers is the first and most obvious. Many characters were stripped down in order to function on the 3DS. Olimar, for example, had his number of Pikmin reduced from 6 to 3. While this was a bit upsetting to Pikmin fans, it was better than what happened to Nana and Popo. The Ice Climbers simply could not work on the 3DS, so even though Sakurai was able to get them working on the Wii U, they ultimately did not make the roster. The fact that the Ice Climbers are essentially from a dead franchise may have made the decision easier for Sakurai as well.
The other character limitation that the 3DS’ lack of processing power resulted in was the removal of transformation characters such as Zelda/Sheik. This lead to the Pokemon trainer essentially being reduced to just Charizard. Squirtle and Ivysaur just didn’t have the star power to carry their own solo slots.
The final cut is Snake. Snake’s situation is tricky, as it could have been caused by many things, ranging from Nintendo’s relationship to Konami to Sakurai wanting to ensure a lower rating for the game. The one thing that can be taken from Snake’s removal is that 3rd party characters are subject to different rules than the rest of the cast.
What we learned
So, what have we actually learned about cuts? Let’s recap:
- Being part of the original 12 doesn’t guarantee you a spot (Ness and Jigglypuff), but it doesn’t hurt
- Sakurai has considered replacing characters with new characters from the same franchise in the past, but hasn’t quite done so
- Third party characters are guests and can be cut if circumstances change
- Clones, and clone like characters, are likely cuts
- Characters from franchises with more than two reps are more likely to be cut than characters from series with 1 or 2 playable characters
- Dead or dormant franchises are easy targets for character removal
- Pokemon are likely targets for cuts (The only first party characters with fully unique move sets to be cut are Pokemon, those being Mewtwo, Squirtle, and Ivysaur. Jigglypuff was also almost cut twice, and the series has seen more cuts than any other franchise.)
- Technical issues can result in cuts
None of these are hard and fast rules, but they are good guidelines while looking forward. Keep this in mind and please look forward to part two of this article, in which I go down the list and examine whom I think has the biggest chance of not joining the battle in Smash 5 and beyond.